Cover: C.T. McMillan
Model: Megan Crawford (ING: @mleighmoon)
Copyright 2018 by C.T. McMillan
All Rights Reserved
In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.
Also By CT McMillan
Back to Valhalla: A Military Fantasy
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.
The street lights weren’t much help. Only a few actually worked and most of them flickered. The best illumination came from a full moon hanging above the street. Kiddo stared at it as she walked. Cut across the ash-white surface where the dark lines and circles of the Luna Colony, dotted with lights from residences on the morning cycle and landing pads.
She moved carefully and at a smooth pace, bringing her whole foot to the pavement starting from the heel. Kiddo kept her head on a swivel, glancing over her shoulder at regular intervals. The street was deserted, but all it takes is one witness to get you pinched.
Most of the lights were on at the apartment, including one over the stoop. Kiddo stood just before the first step and looked around the front windows, scanning for silhouettes and even the slightest sign of movement. She turned to the street to her left and waved her arm. A Gori sitting in a car down a ways got out on to the sidewalk, leaving her with a wave back.
Kiddo ascended the stoop and stopped at the steel panel by the door. She gave her flanks a thorough glance before pulling a thick flat-head screwdriver from her coat pocket. She worked the gap between the metal and brick, prying the panel away. It came down on a hinge at the bottom edge, circuits and wires laid bare behind the metal. Kiddo pocketed the screwdriver and reached into her inside pocket for her deck.
To call it jerry-rigged would be an understatement. The deck was built from a police hand-scanner that you plug your phone into. From a hole on the front side where a lens should’ve been snaked a wrap of three individual wires tipped with micro clamps. Along the edge of the scanner’s box frame where Kiddo held on were ports for different plugs and a set of additional wire attachments for when they’re needed.
Kiddo put her phone in the slot to the right of the deck’s frame vertically. The screen blinked to a field of black before lines of white code scrolled down in rapid succession. As she unwrapped the wire, the code slowed to a stop, ending with the line ‘/ext?/’ in a font big enough for her to press with a thumb.
First she placed the clamps around the guts of the panel around the biometric scanner towards the bottom. Once they were set, Kiddo clicked the last line, and the code began to scroll. She watched it tick away, the lines getting smaller and smaller, checking her flanks again. When the door clicked, Kiddo quickly grabbed the handle, and held it open with her foot. She yanked the wires and pushed the panel back into place, making sure it was secure to the brick, and walked in.
The lobby was done up in an old fashion style. It had a thin carpet floor and a floral print covering the walls. Even the light fixtures appeared to be antiques, no doubt painted to look brass if you know your metals. The wooden stairs proved more inconvenience than aesthetically pleasing when Kiddo made her way up, creaking with every step. She took her time, moving up to the fifth floor on her tiptoes.
The door wasn’t far from the steps, situated on the left side of the hall. Kiddo peered round the corner before dashing to the other side, her gaze fixed on the door. She moved slow, keeping her back parallel to the wall. You could say she was being overdramatic, but better safe than sorry. As Kiddo drew closer, she reached into her coat for the lock picks in her e-cig case. When she looked up after picking out a pair of tools, Kiddo went statue.
The door was already cracked open.
She was twice as slow this time, putting the picks and case back in their place. Kiddo reached for her knife, but kept the blade retracted, and held it right side up. At the edge of the threshold she put her palm flat to the door and daintily pushed. As it swung open Kiddo started to get the simple layout of the apartment. It started with a pristine kitchen on the right side, as you’d expect from an occupant that doesn’t need one. Then there was a desk at the far right corner with a jacket hanging on the chair. Kiddo stopped when she saw the Mark sitting at a small table by the window, a giant hole where her face should’ve been.
She opened the remainder of the door, making sure the apartment was empty before stepping in.
The Mark was seated with her arms hanging to the sides. The hole wiped out most of her features with the smaller entry wound behind her right ear. On the floor in front of the chair was a stain of white blood where laid a pile of biomechanical guts that used to be the Mark’s brain. Kiddo tilted the head back, peering into the near hollow chamber of silicon bone. On the table sat a half-eaten wafer cake and a cup of cold coffee. Kiddo smelled the mouth port on the cup before pulling out her phone. She closed and locked the door as it rang.
“Moshi moshi?” asked Takashi.
“Girl’s got a hole in her face,” she said touching the bloodstain.
“Why’d you do that!”
The stain was dry, leaving white dust on her gloved fingertips.
“I don’t carry a gun, Tak. I just showed up and found her like this.”
“Oh, great. Just what I needed. Did you jump her brain?”
“Try anyway. That’s an order.”
Kiddo tightened her lips and rolled her eyes before standing up. She pulled a cord from her back pocket, plugged one end into the phone, and the other into the neural port in the Mark’s neck. A white wheel spun in the center of the screen for a moment before a line of text blinked ‘Unable to Connect.’ Kiddo yanked the cord and put the phone to her ear.
“Damn it… Alright, we’ll do it your way. Cut her head off and–“
“–There’s no point anymore. Her short and long-term drives are mush. Even if I put all the little pieces in a baggie, we won’t get a thing.”
“Just because you’re screwing an Android doesn’t mean you’re an expert, Pinkerton.”
“Yes. It kinda does. I’m more interested in who clipped this stooly’s wings than–“
Whoever was climbing the stairs wanted Kiddo to hear them coming, their steps echoing through the apartment. She knew there wasn’t time for delicacy, shoving the Mark and the table to side as she darted to the window. Kiddo’s arms whined as she lifted it open, letting in the hard stink of the alley below. She peaked out and sitting at the bottom was a pile of trash bags with her name on it.
Kiddo didn’t think twice and hopped out, keeping one hand on the windowsill while the other pulled her knife. Just as there came a banging at the door she popped the blade and dragged it through the masonry on her way down. Kiddo angled her face away from the sparks and watched the bottom getting closer. At ten feet up she kicked off the wall and landed on her back.
Luckily, none of the bags burst on impact. She rolled to the side until there was solid ground under her feet. Obviously the danger wasn’t over, Kiddo making sure to not step in any puddles or the usual noisemakers. She hugged the wall of the apartment and worked her way toward the front end. Around the corner a dormant hov-car with police colors sat in the street.
“What’s going on?” asked Takashi, his voice a whisper from the phone’s speaker.
“Almost got jumped by some cops,” said Kiddo walking down the other end of the alley.
“What? In the apartment?”
“Somebody knew I was there.”
“Y’think a neighbor or a–“
“–The blood was too dry to be recent. Someone set this up and sprung it the moment I stepped through the front door.”
“I’ll send someone to–“
“Uh, maybe you should take the night–“
“Be there soon,” she said before hanging up.
After coming out to a more friendly side of the block, Kiddo started to run.
Blade Runner, Directed by Ridley Scottt
Deus Ex: Human Revolution/Mankind Divided, Created by Eidos Montreal
Blade Runner 2049, Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Altered Carbon, Created by Laeta Kalogridis
Ghost in the Shell, Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Neuromancer, By William Gibson
Metropolis, Directed by Rintaro
R.U.R., By Karel Capek
Yojimbo, Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Westworld, Created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy
A Touch of Evil, Directed by Orson Welles
Battle Angel Alita, By Yukito Kishiro
On the Waterfront, Directed by Elia Kazan
About the Author
C.T. is a Florida native and proud gun owner. He is a fan of all things military, comic books, and a self-proclaimed movie buff. In his off-time C.T. reviews movies on a blog no one reads and writes screenplays that will never get made, but enjoys it nonetheless. He hopes this book thing will actually pay off so he can do it forever.